Congratulations on your great performance and winning! How long have you been training and preparing for this moment? What does this medal mean to you?
I’ve been training since I was almost 7 years old. I was always looking up to my older brother who was also a national team member. I used to like the feeling of him winning and me and my family cheering for him. So, I guess I followed in his footsteps and I continued on till I reached the junior national team, and then to the senior national team. I got qualified to London 2012 Olympic games. But, there I lost in the quarter-final and no medal then. So, I continued on training these past four years just for that medal and it means a lot for me. It means that, alhamdulillah, Allah blessed me, and the effort of four years training twice a day, staying away from home (family and friends), getting injured and recovering had finally paid off and Allah knows the effort I put into it and how much I worked hard, no one knows better!
Did wearing the hijab ever prevent you from following your dream and passion?
I don’t think it ever did and if my sport ever does oppose my hijab I’d defiantly stop playing that sport. But, alhamdulillah, it didn’t and doesn’t prevent me from following my dream. On the contrary, it made me want to win more so that people around the world can see a young Muslim girl with her hijab successfully standing on the podium, and maybe make them wonder why is she wearing hijab. Maybe their curiosity would make them search more about Islam.
What do you say to those who claim that veiled Muslim women are oppressed?
I believe that Muslim women are free more than anyone. Nowadays you see Muslim women working everywhere around the world following their dreams and being successful and achieving their goals. I believe we are free spiritually: we may be veiled but we have free minds and free bodies that we as Muslims choose to cover.
Did your parents play a role in encouraging you to follow your dream? How so? Also, what are the Do’s and Don’t’s for parents when it comes to encouraging kids to take on a sport- in your opinion?
Yes, they (my parents and my brothers) absolutely did. Especially my mom. I remember her always telling me when I was young “you can be anything you want in this world” and she used to wake up early every day just to take me to my 6 am training. As for my older brother, he was almost my ‘personal driver’ when I grew older and started training in the national team. In my opinion, I believe that parents should always encourage their children to do any kind of sport to keep their kids in good health and shape. Not only that, but also to encourage them to continue on with playing sport while finishing their studies. For example, in Egypt, a lot of parents don’t give their children a choice; it’s either education or sport, you can’t have both. But, I believe that you can, if you work hard and put your mind to it and give your best in both. You will get what you want in both. You might even fail sometimes. But, at least you will have tried!
What is your number one productivity tip?
To always give your best in everything you do and to always have good intentions for the sake of Allah in whatever you’re doing.
What do you do to regain focus when you feel down or feel like procrastinating?
A lot of times when I feel down I try to pray or just open the Qur’an and read or when I’m stressing out, especially on the competition day, I listen to the Qur’an, especially Surah Al Fatihah, or sometimes another recitation that I recommend you to listen. It’s on YouTube; search for ‘the most beautiful Qur’an recitation’. The recitation of the Qur’an always calms me down and I try to start over.
Also during the competition day, I had Zamzam water with me and I drank it before almost every match and made du’a.
A word of advice for young Muslim girls around the world?
Always have faith in Allah and in ourselves, and have trust that Allah will always give us what is the best for us. Sometimes you want something so bad but you don’t get it, only for reasons only Allah knows. Sometimes you get to see those reasons in the dunya and sometimes not. But I’m pretty sure we will know in the Hereafter – we will find out the reason behind every single thing that happened to us, we just have to trust Allah’s timing.
How do you balance faith with personal/social/professional productivity?
Balancing is always hard. I have to study, go to my classes and train and at the same try to find some time to read the Qur’an or pray qiyam… So I have like a night ritual that I try as much as possible to follow before bedtime and try to always say the morning and evening du’as. I use my training as a reminder sometimes. While running early in the morning, I would say the morning du’as, or sometimes I listen to the Qur’an or revise surahs I had memorized before. Also, while spending so much time in transportation between college, training camps, and lessons I used to try to read the Qur’an or even study on my rides. It’s not easy and never will be but we have to try. I have also downloaded the weekly taskinator from Productive Muslim and I try to follow it as much as possible. The secret is to never give up and always keep trying to be better.
What’s next for you, in sha Allah?
I’m not sure yet. I just want to finish my college degree and get good grades hopefully. Maybe I will play world championships coming years to become a world champion and an Olympian.
Hedaya has been playing taekwondo for almost 15 years. She has bagged a bronze in the 2016 Summer Olympics for Egypt and 15 Gold, 13 Silver, and 11 Bronze medals in various African, Arab, and World Championships. She has also won the World Final Grand Prix 2015 where only the top eight in the ranking play with each other. Follow Hedaya Malak on Facebook: @HedayaMalakOfficial
I hope Hedaya Malak’s story has inspired you to stretch your limits. Stay tuned to a more in depth interview with Hedaya on the Productive Muslim podcast! What are the productive lessons you have learnt from her? Share them with us in the comments section below.